Sunday, November 3, 2013

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Creatures Are Now Melting In "Goo" - Monumental Die-Off Of Sea Stars Now Occuring Along East And West Coasts Of The United States And Canada Puzzle Experts?!

November 03, 2013 - NORTH AMERICA - Scientists don’t need dissection to know that a sea star die-off is going on, in both Canada and the United States, but facts are a bit hard to come by, and they’re not sure what’s going to happen down the line.

The creatures are melting into “goo” in waters from New Jersey to Maine on the East Coast, and off the coast of Washington, California, Alaska, and Vancouver on the West Coast.

Disembodied arms of a diseased sea star near Popham Island, 12 miles northwest of Vancouver, B.C.
(Vancouver Aquarium)

Marta Gomez-Chiarri, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, says that the the facts point to an overdevelopment sparking a disease.

“There was a big increase in sea star numbers about three or four years ago, and often when you have a population explosion of any species you end up with a disease outbreak.,”  said Gomez-Chiarri in a university press release .When there’s not enough food for them all it causes stress, and the density of animals leads to increased disease transmission.”

But the leveling out of the population appears to be going far, leaving researchers scrambling to figure out what to do.

“Now that the disease is in the environment, it may be hard to get the population back to normal,” she added. “Diseases don’t just completely disappear after a massive die-off.”

The problem is manifesting itself in a startling fashion. In some areas, such as Rhode Island, researchers are having trouble just finding enough starfish to study.

The melting problem is called the sea star wasting disease, according to the University of California, Santa Cruz. At least 10 different species of sea stars are suffering from the disease. Over a dozen different locations on the West Coast alone have had entire sea star populations wiped out.

Although overpopulation is likely the source of the problem, experts don’t have a good idea of what’s causing the disease, veterinarian Lesanna Lahner told KING5 in Seattle.

Seattle Aquarium biologists  Jeff Christiansen and Joel Hollander suited up over the weekend to search the Puget Sound for both healthy and sick sea stars to try to learn more.

Advanced decomposition of sea stars, mostly P. helianthoides but showing one Solaster dawsoni in a less
advanced state of decomposition, in Kelvin Grove, British Columbia, Canada, in September. (Jonathan Martin)

“There are a lot of melting seas tars out there, more than even a couple days ago” Christiansen said.  “There would be a healthy animal in really close proximity to a sick animal; there was no concentration of sick ones and concentration of good ones.”

Lahner was taking the gathered creatures back to the lab to take samples.

“It’s concerning to hear in a short time period we’re seeing 60% of this species diseased in this area,” she said. Especially because everything seemed fine just a few weeks ago.

Jonathan Martin, a marine biologist and scuba enthusiast, encountered the melting sea stars firsthand when he went diving in the waters off British Columbia in Canada.

“We just started noticing dead starfish that looked like they had their arms chopped off,” Martin, who posted photos online, told National Geographic.

WATCH: Hutt Island - Before and after die-off. 

He began researching the problem after the dive and found other people have been seeing the same thing.

“It really struck a chord in other divers who were seeing it on Facebook and social media, both locally and as far away as California, who had been seeing similar things,” Martin said.

While Martin also believes it could be because of the sea star population explosion, he cautions people not to jump to conclusions.

“When I posted this on Facebook, some people immediately thought that this was due to global warming or other human-related activities. While that’s certainly a possibility, it’s all speculation.”

The problem is puzzling experts in Vancouver, where sea stars are suffering in the waters off Vancouver, such as the Howe Sound and Vancouver Harbor.

“The sick ones tend to just fall apart in front of your eyes,” Vancouver Aquarium biologist Jeff Marliave told KUOW. “An arm will actually break off and crawl away. They turn into goo.”

WATCH: Sea star mortality event. 

Marliave believes that the disease is a good thing because the population was getting out of control, but is also searching for how to stop the disease eventually.

“I have been puzzling for upwards of a decade, how is this really capable killer and eater of sea life going to come under control?” he said. “This seems to be the solution. If you have too many of them for too long, they’re going to get sick.”

University of Washington marine ecologist Robert Paine said that life in the water is often plagued by diseases, but the causes are not often understood.

“When these plagues have occurred in the past, identifying an unknown microorganism — to say, ‘This is what did it’ — this is hard work. It’s difficult science,” Paine said. “We know there are a gazillion kinds of bacteria and viruses in the ocean.”

Sea stars are also known as starfish. - TET.

PLANET X MEMES: The Celestial Convergence - International Team Of Astronomers Discover Exotic, Free-Floating, Rogue Planet, That Is Not Orbiting A Star; JUST 80 LIGHT YEARS Away From Earth; 6 TIMES The Size Of Jupiter!

November 03, 2013 - SPACE - An international team of astronomers has discovered an exotic young planet that is not orbiting a star. This free-floating planet, dubbed PSO J318.5-22, is just 80 light-years away from Earth and has a mass only six times that of Jupiter. The planet formed a mere 12 million years ago—a newborn in planet lifetimes.

Artist's conception of PSO J318.5-22. Credit: MPIA/V. Ch. Quetz

It was identified from its faint and unique heat signature by the Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) wide-field survey telescope on Haleakala, Maui. Follow-up observations using other telescopes in Hawaii show that it has properties similar to those of gas-giant planets found orbiting around young stars. And yet PSO J318.5-22 is all by itself, without a host star.

"We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that that looks like this. It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone,” explained team leader Dr. Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do.”

During the past decade, extrasolar planets have been discovered at an incredible pace, with about a thousand found by indirect methods such as wobbling or dimming of their host stars induced by the planet. However, only a handful of planets have been directly imaged, all of which are around young stars (less than 200 million years old). PSO J318.5-22 is one of the lowest-mass free-floating objects known, perhaps the very lowest. But its most unique aspect is its similar mass, color, and energy output to directly imaged planets.

“Planets found by direct imaging are incredibly hard to study, since they are right next to their much brighter host stars. PSO J318.5-22 is not orbiting a star so it will be much easier for us to study. It is going to provide a wonderful view into the inner workings of gas-giant planets like Jupiter shortly after their birth,” said Dr. Niall Deacon of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and a co-author of the study.

Multicolor image from the Pan-STARRS1 telescope of the free-floating planet PSO J318.5-22, in the constellation
of Capricornus. The planet is extremely cold and faint, about 100 billion times fainter in optical light than the
planet Venus. Most of its energy is emitted at infrared wavelengths. The image is 125 arcseconds on a side.
Credit: N. Metcalfe & Pan-STARRS 1 Science Consortium

PSO J318.5-22 was discovered during a search for the failed stars known as brown dwarfs. Due to their relatively cool temperatures, brown dwarfs are very faint and have very red colors. To circumvent these difficulties, Liu and his colleagues have been mining the data from the PS1 telescope. PS1 is scanning the sky every night with a camera sensitive enough to detect the faint heat signatures of brown dwarfs. PSO J318.5-22 stood out as an oddball, redder than even the reddest known brown dwarfs.

“We often describe looking for rare celestial objects as akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. So we decided to search the biggest haystack that exists in astronomy, the dataset from PS1,” said Dr. Eugene Magnier of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a co-author of the study. Dr. Magnier leads the data processing team for PS1, which produces the equivalent of 60,000 iPhone photos every night. The total dataset to date is about 4,000 Terabytes, bigger than the sum of the digital version of all the movies ever made, all books ever published, and all the music albums ever released.

The team followed up the PS1 discovery with multiple telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. Infrared spectra taken with the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and the Gemini North Telescope showed that PSO J318.5-22 was not a brown dwarf, based on signatures in its infrared light that are best explained by it being young and low-mass.

By regularly monitoring the position of PSO J318.5-22 over two years with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, the team directly measured its distance from Earth. Based on this distance, about 80 light-years, and its motion through space, the team concluded that PSO J318.5-22 belongs to a collection of young stars called the Beta Pictoris moving group that formed about 12 million years ago. In fact, the eponymous star of the group, Beta Pictoris, has a young gas-giant planet in orbit around it. PSO J318.5-22 is even lower in mass than the Beta Pictoris planet and probably formed in a different fashion.

The discovery paper of PSO J318.5-22 is being published by Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available at The other key authors of the paper are Katelyn Allers (Bucknell University), Trent Dupuy (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), and Michael Kotson and Kimberly Aller (University of Hawaii at Manoa).

Founded in 1967, the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Mauna Kea. The Institute operates facilities on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii.

The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys (PS1) have been made possible through contributions of the Institute for Astronomy, the University of Hawaii, the Pan-STARRS Project Office, the Max-Planck Society and its participating institutes, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, The Johns Hopkins University, Durham University, the University of Edinburgh, Queen's University Belfast, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network Incorporated, the National Central University of Taiwan, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under Grant No. NNX08AR22G issued through the Planetary Science Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate, the National Science Foundation under Grant No. AST-1238877, the University of Maryland, and Eotvos Lorand University.

The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, a 3.0-meter infrared telescope dedicated to planetary science, is operated by the University of Hawaii under Cooperative Agreement no. NNX-08AE38A with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Science Mission Directorate, Planetary Astronomy Program.

Based on observations obtained with WIRCam, a joint project of CFHT, Taiwan, Korea, Canada, France, and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) which is operated by the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada, the Institute National des Sciences de l'Univers of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique of France, and the University of Hawaii. - Institute of Astronomy.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: The Celestial Convergence - Rare Hybrid Solar Eclipse Sweeps Across The World!

November 03, 2013 - SPACE - A rare "hybrid" solar eclipse, hailed as "the most interesting eclipse of the year", has swept across parts of Africa, America and Europe on Sunday.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth casting a shadow on the Earth. It's a rare event because this is a hybrid type. During a total eclipse, the Moon fully covers the Sun, whereas in the annular variety the Moon doesn't totally block out the Sun, leaving a halo of sunlight visible around the Moon.

A partial solar eclipse is seen over the Sudanese capital Khartoum, on November 3, 2013
(AFP Photo / Ebrahim Hamid)

This picture taken on November 3, 2013 shows a rare hybrid solar eclipse through clouds from
the Canary Island of Tenerife (AFP Photo / Desiree Martin)

A partial solar eclipse is seen over the Egyptian capital Cairo, on November 3, 2013
(AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)

A hybrid eclipse usually starts and ends as an annular event, although it appears as a total eclipse in the middle.

According to NASA, this Sunday's eclipse is even more unique as it starts annular and ends as a total eclipse.

Thanks to the round shape of the Earth, lucky enthusiasts in West Africa have a chance to observe a total eclipse, while others in Europe and in the US will only see the sun partly obscured.

WATCH: Rare hybrid solar eclipse sweeps across the world. 

Doctors warn, however, that during the eclipse viewers shouldn't look directly at the sun, unless they use special welder's glasses or are watching the phenomenon with a pinhole camera. Plain sunglasses won't protect the naked eye well enough.

 The eclipse begins about 1,000 kilometers east of Jacksonville, Florida, with an annular eclipse visible for four seconds at sunrise.

The greatest part of the eclipse is expected to take place over the Atlantic Ocean, about 330 kilometers southwest of Liberia, at 12:47 GMT, lasting one minute and 39 seconds.

WATCH: SLOOH's complete coverage of the hybrid eclipse. 

WATCH: SLOOH's total eclipse coverage highlight. 

WATCH: SLOOH's total eclipse coverage highlight with Paul Cox from Kenya. 

A state on the west coast of Central Africa, Gabon, will get peak viewing of the total eclipse sweeping over a path some 60 kilometers wide. At its peak, the sun will be blocked out for about one minute.

"The eclipse will then continue across Africa through the Congo until it passes through northern Uganda and northern Kenya, ending in southern Ethiopia and Somalia," the International Astronomical Union said. In northern Kenya, the eclipse will last about 10 seconds.

Depending on the weather, partial phases of the eclipse will be visible in southern Europe, including parts of Spain, Italy and Greece. - RT.

MASS BEES DIE-OFF: Global Food Crisis - 20 MILLION Bees Have Died Mysteriously So Far This Year In Ontario And Quebec, Canada; 37 MILLION Last Year!

November 03, 2013 - CANADA - Tens of millions of bees are dead and more are dying every year, but beekeepers are still waiting for action on what they believe is the cause.

According to Saugeen County honey farmer Dave Schuit, “We need to wake up!”

Schuit blames a coating used on corn and soybean seeds containing neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoids are supposed to kill pests that feed on the crops, but Schuit and several other beekeepers in Ontario say the coating is killing their bees.

A Health Canada study of the massive dieoffs at nearly 4,000 beehives in Ontario and Quebec showed that in 80 per cent of the dead bees there was a detectable neonicotinoid residue.

But the head of the Bruce County Federation of Agriculture remains skeptical.

Patrick Jileson says “These [neonicotinoids] have been studied. They were approved by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. It’s nice to see them studied it again.”

WATCH: Beekeepers says government agencies aren't acting on apparent cause of bee deaths. 

Health Canada’s pesticide regulatory body says the current used of neonicotinoids “isn’t sustainable” and are soliciting ideas from beekeepers and crop farmers until December 12.

Schuit says there’s no more time for studies and he wants an all-out ban now. - CTV News.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Serious Contagious Disease - 180,000 Salmon Killed Due To Outbreak Of Disease In Gulen, Norway?!

November 03, 2013 - NORWAY - Infectious salmon anemia (ISA) is caused by a virus that is probably of the same family as the influenza virus and spreads quickly.

Destroyed: 180,000 oppdretsslaks had destroyed after illness ISA was detected at a plant in Gulen this week.
Photo: Kallestad, Gorm / Scanpix

It was Firda Sjøfarmer AS and fish health as forecasts on suspicion of ISA on his fish in a plant in Vatnøy in Gulen earlier this week, write Firda. After the discovery of abnormally many dead fish and symptom of the disease took FSA samples and confirmed the ISA virus infection.

Breeders slaughtered all the fish in one day, well jumper 180,000 with an average weight of about 250 grams, enter FSA on its website.

Internal bleeding
ISA the disease is considered a serious contagious disease in Norway and Norwegian Food Safety Authority has drawn up a plan for handling such matters are implemented with the same suspicion of infection occurs.

Disease attacks both fish and provides internal bleeding. It may affect most organ and make sure the fish are anemic. Finally, the fish sick and die, and it is therefore attempted euthanized before the disease breaks out.

According to the FSA is now eight years since it was proven ISA og Fjordane. They have now set out measures to prevent contagion spreading to other plants nearby. - NRK. [Translated]

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Sultan Kudarat Province, Philippines!

November 03, 2013 - PHILIPPINES - A strong earthquake struck the southern Mindanao province of Sultan Kudarat  on Sunday evening, registering at 6.0 magnitude on the Richter scale, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

USGS earthquake location.

The quake occurred at 7:04 pm Philippines time about 195 kilometers southwest of the municipality of Palimbang. The tremor, which was tectonic in origin, has a depth of 556 km.

Phivolcs notes that because of the depth of the earthquake, it is very unlikely to trigger a tsunami.

It was felt at Intensity III in Malita, Davao del Sur, and at intensity II in Davao City.  Intensity III means many people inside their homes or buildings will feel the shaking and hanging objects can be seen swinging, but people outside may not feel the movement. Intensity II means a few people at rest or on the upper floors of tall buildings will feel the shaking.

The US Geological Survey gave a slightly lower magnitude of 5.8.

This is the strongest quake recorded in the Philippines since the major 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol on Oct. 15.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

Phivolcs said no damage was expected from the quake but aftershocks were anticipated.

According to the Richter magnitude scale, an earthquake that registers at 6.0-6.9 is considered strong. It can be destructive in areas up to about 160 kilometers (99 mi) across in populated areas. There are only approximately 130 earthquakes of this magnitude seen annually across the globe.

The Philippines lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire, which causes the country to have frequent seismic and volcanic activity. Much larger numbers of earthquakes of smaller magnitude occur very regularly due to the meeting of major tectonic plates in the region. - Global Dispatch.

Seismotectonics of the Philippine Sea and Vicinity.
The Philippine Sea plate is bordered by the larger Pacific and Eurasia plates and the smaller Sunda plate. The Philippine Sea plate is unusual in that its borders are nearly all zones of plate convergence. The Pacific plate is subducted into the mantle, south of Japan, beneath the Izu-Bonin and Mariana island arcs, which extend more than 3,000 km along the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea plate. This subduction zone is characterized by rapid plate convergence and high-level seismicity extending to depths of over 600 km. In spite of this extensive zone of plate convergence, the plate interface has been associated with few great (Magnitude greater than 8.0) ‘megathrust’ earthquakes. This low seismic energy release is thought to result from weak coupling along the plate interface (Scholz and Campos, 1995). These convergent plate margins are also associated with unusual zones of back-arc extension (along with resulting seismic activity) that decouple the volcanic island arcs from the remainder of the Philippine Sea Plate (Karig et al., 1978; Klaus et al., 1992).

South of the Mariana arc, the Pacific plate is subducted beneath the Yap Islands along the Yap trench. The long zone of Pacific plate subduction at the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea Plate is responsible for the generation of the deep Izu-Bonin, Mariana, and Yap trenches as well as parallel chains of islands and volcanoes, typical of circum-pacific island arcs. Similarly, the northwestern margin of the Philippine Sea plate is subducting beneath the Eurasia plate along a convergent zone, extending from southern Honshu to the northeastern coast of Taiwan, manifested by the Ryukyu Islands and the Nansei-Shoto (Ryukyu) trench. The Ryukyu Subduction Zone is associated with a similar zone of back-arc extension, the Okinawa Trough. At Taiwan, the plate boundary is characterized by a zone of arc-continent collision, whereby the northern end of the Luzon island arc is colliding with the buoyant crust of the Eurasia continental margin offshore China.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Along its western margin, the Philippine Sea plate is associated with a zone of oblique convergence with the Sunda Plate. This highly active convergent plate boundary extends along both sides the Philippine Islands, from Luzon in the north to the Celebes Islands in the south. The tectonic setting of the Philippines is unusual in several respects: it is characterized by opposite-facing subduction systems on its east and west sides; the archipelago is cut by a major transform fault, the Philippine Fault; and the arc complex itself is marked by active volcanism, faulting, and high seismic activity. Subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate occurs at the eastern margin of the archipelago along the Philippine Trench and its northern extension, the East Luzon Trough. The East Luzon Trough is thought to be an unusual example of a subduction zone in the process of formation, as the Philippine Trench system gradually extends northward (Hamburger et al., 1983). On the west side of Luzon, the Sunda Plate subducts eastward along a series of trenches, including the Manila Trench in the north, the smaller less well-developed Negros Trench in the central Philippines, and the Sulu and Cotabato trenches in the south (Cardwell et al., 1980). At its northern and southern terminations, subduction at the Manila Trench is interrupted by arc-continent collision, between the northern Philippine arc and the Eurasian continental margin at Taiwan and between the Sulu-Borneo Block and Luzon at the island of Mindoro. The Philippine fault, which extends over 1,200 km within the Philippine arc, is seismically active. The fault has been associated with major historical earthquakes, including the destructive M7.6 Luzon earthquake of 1990 (Yoshida and Abe, 1992). A number of other active intra-arc fault systems are associated with high seismic activity, including the Cotabato Fault and the Verde Passage-Sibuyan Sea Fault (Galgana et al., 2007).

Relative plate motion vectors near the Philippines (about 80 mm/yr) is oblique to the plate boundary along the two plate margins of central Luzon, where it is partitioned into orthogonal plate convergence along the trenches and nearly pure translational motion along the Philippine Fault (Barrier et al., 1991). Profiles B and C reveal evidence of opposing inclined seismic zones at intermediate depths (roughly 70-300 km) and complex tectonics at the surface along the Philippine Fault.

Several relevant tectonic elements, plate boundaries and active volcanoes, provide a context for the seismicity presented on the main map. The plate boundaries are most accurate along the axis of the trenches and more diffuse or speculative in the South China Sea and Lesser Sunda Islands. The active volcanic arcs (Siebert and Simkin, 2002) follow the Izu, Volcano, Mariana, and Ryukyu island chains and the main Philippine islands parallel to the Manila, Negros, Cotabato, and Philippine trenches.

Seismic activity along the boundaries of the Philippine Sea Plate (Allen et al., 2009) has produced 7 great (Magnitude greater than 8.0) earthquakes and 250 large (Magnitude greater than 7) events. Among the most destructive events were the 1923 Kanto, the 1948 Fukui and the 1995 Kobe (Japan) earthquakes (99,000, 5,100, and 6,400 casualties, respectively), the 1935 and the 1999 Chi-Chi (Taiwan) earthquakes (3,300 and 2,500 casualties, respectively), and the 1976 M7.6 Moro Gulf and 1990 M7.6 Luzon (Philippines) earthquakes (7,100 and 2,400 casualties, respectively). There have also been a number of tsunami-generating events in the region, including the Moro Gulf earthquake, whose tsunami resulted in more than 5000 deaths. - USGS.